Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Bumpkins are people too?
I'm starting to feel like the title character in Cal Smith’s 1974 hit, “Country Bumpkin” and not just because I know the words. The song greeted me this morning as my Daddy had awakened earlier than normal due to his appointment at the hospital and apparently couldn’t start the day without a little country music. See, his doctor wanted to see him at 1:30 pm, so naturally he felt the need to arise at 5:00 am, cook himself, but not me, breakfast and ensure that we arrived at the hospital 7:00 am, just in case. Thank goodness I work there. Heaven forbid he not drive himself to the hospital and stay at home sleeping his day away. He’d rather come to the hospital and alternate sleeping in the lobby, cafeteria or my office. Imagine trying to conduct a conference call with a sleep apnea-riddled yeti leaning precariously close to the edge of your desk who, snorts himself awake and demands peanut butter crackers.
And that’s not even the reason I’m feeling all bumpkinish. No, the main reason I am feeling “fresh as frost out on the pumpkins” is that yesterday, my father called me at work and asked me to find him a container to store used cooking oil with which to prepare the animals he isn’t supposed to eat in a manner which isn’t conducive to achieving his goal of outliving me. Of course those are my words. What he said was, “Git me a grease can so I can fry me some chicken.” As if he had not already fried chicken, which is not allowed, filling my house with a scent that, while wonderfully nostalgic, was so thick you could “sop it up with a biscuit”. Upon opening the front door, I took a deep breath, immediately gained three and a half pounds, and said, “Did you rob a ‘tucky Fried Chicken?” Tell me I’m not as country as the Mandrell Sisters. Okay, I’m probably more Arlene than Barbara, but whatever. The point being, he asked me to help him fry chicken which he had already done, but tried to hide. I know his eyesight is less than it used to be, but I find it hard to believe he didn’t think I saw the flour, pepper and salt that covered almost every surface in the kitchen up to and including his hat and the dog. Not to worry, it was one of his six identical Tractor Supply hats. Apparently stealth cooking requires something less formal than a fedora or bowler.
My point, besides the sinking feeling that I am being forced to acknowledge my roots more than I would like, is that my Daddy is incapable of hiding anything. Feelings, prejudices, candy wrappers. Nothing is hidden. Nothing is held back. He has taken to telling all sorts of tales to my staff and I don’t know what stories he shared with my administrative resident, but trying to explain “Hee Haw” to a 23 year-old master’s candidate from Chicago while keeping one’s cosmopolitan façade intact is difficult people. Thank goodness I have been able to keep the “I reckons” and “fixin tos” to a minimum. But I have had to resort to being an interpreter of sorts for those who come in contact with him.
There is a certain code to know when talking with my father. A certain language, if you will, although I don’t believe Rosetta Stone offers training in his dialects which include Basic Southern, Judgmental Redneck, Big Honkin’ White Trash and even Mumbling Cajun, although I secretly think that last one is due more to a lack of denture adhesive than anything else. And as much as I go on, I sometimes find myself using his phrases to confuse and intimidate my staff. Smell that? That’s leadership, people.
The reason I bring this up is that to know my father is to listen for the clues in what he says to give you the realities of what he’s done. It’s a matter of gleaning the trace amount of truth out of his statements. For example, when he entered my office this afternoon, after his doctor’s appointment, he stated, “I sure did want a Mountain Dew today, but I didn’t have one.” To the uninitiated, he is following his diet. To those in the know, he in fact just finished a Mountain Dew. As I am attempting to keep “the sugar” from taking his feet, as you know, I have taken it upon myself to micro-manage his diet. When his blood sugar goes up he gets very sleepy. This leads to moments when he will nod off in mid-sentence and has on more than one occasion caused alarm with visitors who ask about “the homeless man asleep in (my) office”. Just today he fell asleep sitting across from me at my desk and I had to complete an employee’s performance appraisal in the conference room as there is no method to wake a sleeping bear without causing some sort of unpleasant interaction with either the gas or the curse words, both of which he lets fly with alarming speed and frequency. Even with my sweet ninja moves and more combat experience than is warranted in a childhood this side of Chechnya, I am sometimes caught in the crossfire, if you will.
And I am not exactly thrilled with the turning tides at home, so to speak. I can’t pinpoint exactly when the power shifted but all I know is that there is a skillet full of grease on my stove, a belt sander in my foyer with an orange extension cord trailing through the front window and a 15 pound sack of potatoes in my pantry. There is some nefarious scheming afoot and I think the end goal is to create some hybrid country caretaker cook. Well, all I can say is if I wanted to be a Southern woman, I assure you I’d choose Julia Sugarbaker instead of Aunt Bea. I will fight this tooth and nail. I will keep my zebra occasional chairs, mirrored furniture and pastel chinos. I will continue to eat at the dinner table with no dog and a balanced meal. And as God as my witness I WILL NOT make biscuits from scratch. I feel like Scarlett O’Hara but without the turnips and drama. Okay maybe some of the drama, but definitely not the turnips.
To be honest, I don’t remember where I was headed with this thought, but I do need to go. My favorite Lacy J. Dalton song just came on the radio and I’ve got a roast in the crock pot. Oh crap, is country contagious?